Pak govt forms committees to hold talks with Imran, Qadri

Last Updated 18 August 2014, 08:22 IST

Pakistan government has said it was ready to discuss all "constitutional" demands put forth by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek and announced formation of two committees, consisting of members from all major political parties, to hold talks with them.

The decision to hold talks with the protest leaders - Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Awami Tehreek chief Tahir-ul Qadiri - came hours after Khan launched a civil disobedience movement to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"The federal government is willing to listen to each and every constitutional demand of PTI and PAT as a goodwill gesture, we have decided to constitute two separate committees to negotiate with them," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told a news conference here last night.

"The two teams will consist of members from all major parties and will hold talks with the protesting leaders tomorrow," he added.

The minister said no one would be allowed to violate the security of the "Red Zone" where the Parliament, the President and the Prime Minister's residences and embassies are located.

Nisar said the government exercised restraint and facilitated the long marchers. "We allowed them to stage their sit-in where they wanted to and provided them security. Rs1 billion have been spent on their security."

Earlier, Khan declared a "civil disobedience movement" against the Nawaz Sharif-led government and Qadri gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the embattled Prime Minister to resign.

"There is only one way now, we will kick off a civil disobedience campaign," Khan said to raucous applause from thousands of his supporters, who have traveled from Lahore in his 'Azadi March' aimed at ousting Prime Minister Sharif.

In the polls last year, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature. Khan has claimed that his party should have won many more seats but for the vote-rigging by Sharif's PML-N.

Qadri and Khan launched separate protests on Thursday, leading marches from Lahore to the capital where they are camping at separate venues. Sharif-led government has come under pressure for not trying to resolve the standoff through talks.

"The government has completely failed to find a political solution to the problem. It should talk with the protesters," said Aitizaz Ahsan, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party.

The political instability comes at a time when Pakistan is waging a war against militants - particularly in the restive tribal regions along its border with Afghanistan.

(Published 18 August 2014, 08:22 IST)

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